Nothing compares to going home. From Ghana, to Germany, to Canada, Kae Sun experiences that sensation all over the world.
After earning critical acclaim for his sophomore effort Afriye, the Ghanaian-Canadian singer-songwriter returns with Oceans Apart, a an ambitious installation that merges original music with a visual component conceived by art director Emeka Alams.
On Oceans Apart, Kae Sun builds an atmospheric world, weaving digital synths around organic instrumentation. On the audio treatment, his striking voice is the focal point, sliding in and out of an acrobatic falsetto, dabbling in R&B and experimental electro-soul. Pair the EP with its short film accompaniment, and Kae Sun’s is more of a co-conspirator, helping along a story that evolves in split-screen. It’s a remarkable achievement from one of the strongest emerging voices in music—Canada, Germany, and Ghana are all lucky to have him when this traveler passes through.
You can listen to the Oceans Apart EP below, in advance of its November 20th release date.
We caught up with Kae Sun to talk about his installation, relationships, and finding inspiration on a global scale.
What has changed since Afriyie?
I think Afriyie was a milestone in the sense that I found my way sonically with that album. I've been playing shows almost non-stop, and exploring other ways of doing music and art. I think I’ve embraced the reach of my work more in the sense that I'm not restricting my ideas to just music anymore.
How does Oceans Apart the EP relate to Oceans Apart the short film/installation?
The short film and installation came first. I’ve been working on a full length for some time and I didn’t necessarily want to release music before the album was ready. I wanted to do something a little more interactive and collaborative, and this was the perfect project for it. But, I ended up liking the songs I wrote. They work well on record, plus I was also getting tired of playing
the same old songs at shows.
Where was your head at when you wrote these songs?
I wrote all these songs while travelling. I don't really set aside time to write music, I just try to capture them on the move. The first song I wrote came out of an experience with police in Munich. I was told they were searching for illegal immigrants, whatever that means. It's like any black face will do, sadly. That was really the genesis of the project. Thinking about all this and how it feels to be profiled. It also has to do with relationships, as it’s been a weird time in that sense for me. I think it’s a weird time for a lot of people I know, to be honest.
Can you tell us a little bit about the recording process for Oceans Apart?
Sure. I started recording around March in Toronto then went over to Germany for the film. I finished some songs there and the rest in New York with my producer/co-writer Joshua Sadlier-Brown.
What’s your connection to Germany? Much of the EP was conceived there, and you have upcoming tour dates there.
Yeah, I grew up around the language because my parents lived in Germany for a long time. They're both Ghanaian, but they met and started a family in Germany and made lots of ties, so there's that connection. But Oceans Apart came about because art director Emeka Alams brought me over to do some shows connected to this contemporary African art museum. I'm in love with the place, particularly Berlin, so I find myself coming back a lot. I've met some really interesting, warm people there.
Ghana, to Germany, to Canada. Do you find inspiration via location?
Absolutely. I think I need that. Most artists do. It's necessary to shift your perspective sometimes in order to not repeat yourself too much. But at the same time, for me, all these places are home in a very real way. They're places where people call me by my given name, and cook me food, and I don't really worry about much of the basic stuff.
How do you want Oceans Apart to be experienced, for someone who can’t take in a live installation?
I want as many people as possible to see the installation. For me that’s the main thing. Aside from that, you could just watch the film and also stream the EP online. But the installation is like the live show, you know? Nothing beats that, so it's gonna be around for a while. And we'll try to get it in as many places as possible.
What’s your message?
Back in the day, I thought I had one grand message. That was very arrogant of me. Now I realize that doesn't exist in art, at least not in any deep way for me. I'm just a conduit. At the risk of sounding esoteric, whatever becomes of you, you're at the mercy of this passion or habit. I can say this: I hope I'm being loving and sincere with this and doing my best to follow the impulse to create and connect.
What’s next for Kae Sun?
Next up is the North American version of the exhibition and tour. I’ll be doing dates in New York, Montreal and Toronto. We'll be making those announcements very soon. And also the EP is available for pre-order on iTunes.
Upcoming Tour Dates:
Nov 21, 2015 - Iwalewahaus (Performance), Bayreuth, Germany
Nov 24, 2015 - Subcültur, Bayreuth, Germany
Nov 28, 2015 - Rational Theater, Munich, Germany
Dec 20, 2015 - Sabolai Radio Music Festival, Accra, Ghana